Monday, September 20, 2010

Tales of a BIRDsitter? - Bye, Bye Birdie

It is truly a beautiful Sunday in Homer town. I had a friend down for the weekend and along with seeing the play at Pier One Theatre “We Won’t Pay, We Won’t Pay,” we had dinner and breakfast out, enjoying a great weekend.

Before she left to drive back to Anchorage we went for a bite to eat and then to the Oyster Farm to buy some fresh Kachemak Bay oysters for her to take back to the city. Judy left for her drive back and I headed up the hill to nine dogs ready for a walk.

As I approached the front door I saw a small bird on the steps. So often birds fly into the large windows in the front of the house, and break their neck in the process. Lying on the step by the sliding glass door was a lovely little Gold Crown Kinglet. He had obviously hit the glass and was struggling to breathe. I picked him up and saw that one of his eyes was really alert but the other one was smashed, I assume that’s the side where he hit the glass.

This happened a few years back and I massaged the bird, and then laid him in a safe area so he could regain his strength. I went back to check on him a few hours later, picked him up and he flew out of my hand, well on his way. That was a good feeling. I hate finding the dead ones on my deck. Once I tried to cremate a tiny creature and had an awful time getting it done. I have since taken to placing them carefully in the tall grass and saying a blessing for the life that was lost by my window glass, and the pain and suffering endured. Although I know the critters out there will eventually eat the corpse, I recognize it is part of the food chain and that’s just the way it is.

This little guy, who I named Little Bird, was struggling very hard to sit up. I found a nice spot, got a soft cloth for him to lie on and left him to recover. The spot was high on a ledge so the dogs would not find him when we went walking. A few hours later I was delighted to see that Little Bird was gone from the ledge, thinking he had flown off. It wasn’t until I looked down that I saw him lying on the ground beneath the ledge still struggling. ☹

Once again I put him back on the ledge – this time in a small box. A little while later I checked and he had once again tried to fly and fallen off the ledge. The six-foot fall was not helping his condition at all. I needed another plan.

I decided to put him on the back deck away from the dogs. Twice he got out of his box there and was desperately trying to be on his way but couldn’t quite do it. He was wearing himself out in the process. I know a lot about dogs but absolutely nothing about birds. I was worried that Little Bird was in pain and I had no idea what to do about it. Who could I call on a Sunday afternoon for advice?

I tried Islands and Oceans Visitors Center but was unable to get a human on the phone, and leaving my name and number for a return call on Monday was not an option. I then called Homer Veterinary Clinic and got the number for the weekend Vet. The on-call Vet answered on the fifth ring and I explained the situation to her and asked what I should do. She said I could bring him in the following morning. “But, what about the rest of today and tonight if he is suffering,” I wondered? “Isn’t there anyone else I can call?”

She told me there was a bird rehabilitation woman named Charlotte in Homer and was happy to find her phone number for me. I got Charlotte on the line just as she was leaving for her shift at the Lynx Golf Course. She told me to bring Little Bird to her there. Deal, I arranged to meet her at the golf course in an hour. I got Little Bird ready for the trip by placing him in a deeper box with some fleece lining.

Little Bird seemed to be getting stronger as the day progressed but he still couldn’t fly even though both his wings were flapping. On the drive to the golf course I had a difficult time keeping him in the box because he was determined to escape. Hang in there little buddy; we’re going to get you some help!

Finally we arrived in the parking lot at the Golf Course and Charlotte was there to meet us. We took Little Bird inside so she could examine him. She thought perhaps he was still stunned a bit. But, because his legs were hanging and not engaging in his efforts, she said he also might have a neurological injury. She told me not to worry; she had rehabilitated birds in much worse shape than Little Bird. She explained that he is a migratory bird and if his injuries require a few weeks of healing, he would have to stay with her for the winter. But, if he’s up and flying in the next few days he will be able to make his return trip south to the warm country.

I am confident that he will be nursed back to health in comfort no matter how long it takes. He’s in good hands. I said my goodbye to the sweet little bird and gave Charlotte my phone number. She promised to call and let me know how he was doing. I left knowing Little Bird had a strong fortitude and was not about to give up the fight. Bye, Bye Birdie. Grow strong with time and have a good life. ☺

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tales of a Dogsitter - Quirky Misty

Tales of a Dogsitter – Quirky Misty
Misty, one of the California blonde rescue girls from Camp Cocker, arrived at TBTB Dog Camp sporting a bag of clever tricks. First, she has the most adorable tilted head with a mop-top (some call it a cocker crown – long hair on the top of her head) making her look oh so sweet and innocent, It took me a few days to figure out she was the culprit getting into all things Not Dog.

Misty Ann could leap off the ground in a single bound, (about three feet in the air) and grab whatever she saw on her way down, and then run with it. She started with the trash – easy to solve. I just moved the trash far enough back off the counter that she can no longer reach it. She then moved on to grabbing food bowls that were intended for arriving dogs, off the counter. All the dogs loved her for this one because when the bowl hit the floor and scattered food, the game of clean-up was on. Again, this was easy to solve. I just moved the bowls away from the counter edge.

Misty also loved to lie on the kitchen table so she could be eye level with the activities. Solved that too, moved the chairs away from the table so she couldn’t get up there. The other day I left my bathroom makeup drawer open and couldn’t find the mascara. Later I noticed it in the doggie pup tent – she doesn’t chew anything but food, but she loves to grab and run – it’s a game with her. And she’s sneaky – sometimes you don’t see her do it, especially if she doesn’t have to jump up to reach her target.

Her latest trick. . . I’m sorry to say is one she has taught the other dogs. I was on the back deck yesterday enjoying the sun. The puppies and I had just returned from a run and everyone was tired and ready for a nap - or so I thought. Duke the Rottweiler pup and my other spaniels were just ready to nod off in the glorious sunshine when I realized Forty West and RockDog were missing from the crowd. I assumed they fell asleep downstairs (in my dreams) but something told me I better check. Quiet puppies could mean trouble.

I crept down the stairs and there they were – the two of them, inside the cabinet with both their noses buried inside a box of CornFlakes. OMG it was so funny. They were quietly chowing down and didn’t even notice when I came up behind them to snap a picture and then say in my big, bad, scary voice: “what are you doing?,” totally startling both of them. Misty of course was sitting in the background with a smirk on her face. I have chased her away from the Lazy Susan cabinet many times. I cleaned up the cornflake crumbs and checked the box to find Forty West and RockDog had devoured almost the entire thing. The good news, in no time flat they were sound to sleep on the back deck with the rest of the pack.

The puppies now know how to rotate the Lazy Susan cabinet so they can help themselves to whatever they want on the shelf – they figured this out by watching Quirky Misty! Needless to say she has integrated very well into the TBTB resident pack and made lots of friends with her antics. The Lazy Susan problem is not so easy to solve, especially with all the dogs aping each other. It will require a child’s latch on the cabinet to keep them out, especially since they have been rewarded with yummy food every time they open it.

I’m now onto Misty’s bouncing up and down, so when I hear it I call out to her and she immediately stops or comes upstairs. But, the other mischief – well I find myself counting heads all the time so that I know if any dogs are missing before the trouble starts! It’s impossible to get mad at these adorable little faces – I just have to stay one step ahead of them and think like a Dog. Needless to say when I have a group of puppies here for the day it can be quite exhausting. Oh well, just another day in the life of a dogsitter. I truly love my job – it’s a real HOWL! ☺

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tales of a Dogsitter – Tightass*

*American Slang meaning: an inhibited or excessively self-controlled person.

I have a friend that works for a bear viewing charter service here in Homer and she often refers clients to TBTB Dog Camp. Rather than leave their dogs in a camper for 8-10 hours while they are off photographing frolicking brown bears catching salmon, clients can drop their dogs off with me for daycare or an overnight stay.

Yesterday my friend had an extremely uptight east coast couple inquiring about a bear-viewing trip – she referred to the woman as a “tightass.” She can get away with stereotyping east coasters because she is in fact one herself and can immediately recognize the attitude - so different from what you find in Alaska.

This particular couple was concerned about leaving their dog home alone in the RV, so my friend mentioned TBTB Dog Camp adding that the owner (that be me) loved dogs so much that they were allowed on the furniture, and that she even let them sleep on the bed with her if they wanted to.

OMG, well that did it – sunk the sale, out the window, over the top! My friend said the look on the woman’s face was priceless. Aghast, they both stared at her totally stone-faced, no hint of even a small smile, and tightass said: That will NEVER work. We do NOT allow our dog on any furniture.”

Recognizing the humor in all this and knowing the sale was gone, my friend simply agreed. “Yelp. You’re right, that will never work!” They didn’t book the trip. . . or dog camp. ☹

I wonder if a tightass client would produce a tightass dog? No doubt, but I bet the dog – with a little encouragement - would have a ball letting his hair down. He could really cut loose and have a once in a lifetime experience at Tails-By-The-Bay Dog Camp, where dogs are allowed to be dogs. And except for the smile on his lips, who would know the difference? ☺

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tales of a Dogsitter - Wino?

As I sit here in bed writing TBTB Chronicles I am enjoying a glass of cabernet sauvignon. The sun is sinking behind the horizon earlier these days and the leaves are changing colors too quick for comfort. There is a definite bite in the evening air. The locals know that fall is upon us here in Homer and winter is but a couple months away. Yikes – it seems to be coming really fast!

There is nothing better than a nice glass of red vino to take the chill away - comfort for the soul. I look around and see six dogs sharing my bed as I write. Of course they are all laid out, fast asleep with the heavy breathing of happy canines. Life is comfortable at TBTB Dog Camp.

I creep out of bed for a bathroom run careful not to wake anyone up, run downstairs and am back in less than 5 minutes. And there she is. . OMG, I can’t believe it! Camp Cocker Misty, Quirky Misty we call her because she is so hilarious, is standing on the nightstand with her entire snout in my glass. She is lapping away at the wine just like water and loving it! I struggle to get her face out of my glass and notice that she had consumed more than half of it. Needless to say she is now sound to sleep by my side. Can’t fault the girl for having good taste. Sweet dreams girly! Hopefully you won’t have a nasty headache in the morning.

Do you suppose dogs can develop a taste for good wine? If so, would they then be called a Dino?